Watch the video above: Protest outside Cameco headquarters in Saskatoon
SASKATOON – The agenda for Cameco’s annual general meeting took a turn Wednesday when a group of protesters showed up at Cameco’s head office.
The focus shifted from updating shareholders on the financial future of the company to the ethics and environmental impact of uranium mining in northern Saskatchewan.
The protest of about 25 people was organized by members of the English River First Nation but was attended by people from all over the province including Lumsden, Outlook, Standing Buffalo, Saskatoon and an outspoken woman from La Ronge.
“All we will have done is increase the amount of radioactivity on the land,” said Kirsten Scansen, of La Ronge, Sask.
“It’s making our food, our land base, our wild meats, our fish, our plants, our berries, making them more dangerous in our lives and decreasing our livelihood, decreasing our health, decreasing our well being.”
The protesters biggest concerns are the radioactive tailings ponds left in the north and the high grade nuclear waste being disposed of.
The English River band chief and council signed an agreement with Cameco and Areva on May 31, 2013 supporting mining operations in the north. The $600-million deal, is to remain in effect as long as Cameco is in operation on the First Nation’s land.
The First Nation is supposed to benefit from the agreement through job opportunity and community investment but resident’s say they didn’t agree to it.
“They went to the back room door kind of deal and talked to the elected authority,” said protest organizer Candyce Paul.
“The people themselves were never really consulted.”
Cameco CEO Tim Gitzel credits his company for allowing the protest to take place at the building on 11th street.
Gitzel says the company is delivering on all fronts of the agreement with 50 per cent of its work force being of aboriginal descent.
“We make commitments on jobs, we make commitments on business opportunities, we contribute to the arts and sports in the communities. We do a lot of things and it’s a big benefit to Northern Saskatchewan,” said Gitzel.
“We’ve been doing it for 25 or 30 years and I believe, it’s my view, the north is better off with uranium mining.”
But Scansen says, “opposing the uranium industry becomes harder and harder because Cameco has a hand in absolutely everything.”
The group attempted to deliver the following letter to shareholders but was denied:
Protesters told Global News they’ll keep fighting.
Cameco owns and operates four uranium mines in Saskatchewan including Cigar Lake which began production in March, 2014. The Millennium Mine, north of Key Lake, is currently on hold.